Francoeur's HR leads Braves over Reds

BY foxsports • April 25, 2009

The best thing the Atlanta Braves did was stand and watch.

Jeff Francoeur hit a solo homer - one of only four Atlanta hits - and the Braves took advantage of the wildest performance in Edinson Volquez's career Friday night, walking their way to a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Javier Vazquez (2-1) went six innings for the slumping Braves, who had lost seven of nine heading into the weekend series. They emerged from their rut with a lot of help from Volquez (2-2), who gave up only one hit in five innings - Francoeur's homer - but couldn't throw a strike when he needed one.

"We did a good job of not swinging at bad pitches tonight," manager Bobby Cox said. "Volquez has no-hit stuff. It's tough to lay off his pitches, and we laid off some pitches."

The right-hander has struggled with his control since spring training, and reached a new low against Atlanta. He walked a career-high seven batters and hit another in only five innings, helping the Braves pull ahead 3-2.

"I lost my release point," Volquez said. "Honestly, I didn't know where the ball was going that inning. I couldn't throw strikes."

The crowd booed last year's All-Star as he walked the bases loaded with two outs in the fourth, then walked Vazquez - who hasn't had a hit since 2006 - and Kelly Johnson to force in a pair of runs. The 40-pitch inning was the wildest by a Red since Ryan Dempster walked six in the second inning at Colorado on April 30, 2003.

"He helped me because he didn't throw a strike," Vazquez said of his first RBI since 2005. "It's always good when you don't have to swing the bat."

Volquez's wildness got under the Braves' skin in the third, when he hit Yunel Escobar in the side. The shortstop dropped his bat, took a few steps toward the mound and pointed at Volquez, who raised his arms in a puzzled gesture.

Plate umpire Tim Tschida stepped in front of Escobar and blocked his way, preventing it from escalating. Both benches and bullpens emptied, but it was mostly for show. Several players laughed as they milled around the infield.

"I don't know," Volquez said. "I've never talked to him that much. He said, 'What are you trying to do?' I said, 'I'm trying to get inside.' I'm not going to hit him, especially with Chipper Jones coming up. I just missed my spot."

The Reds were coming off one of their best road trips in the last five years - they won all three series - but couldn't keep the momentum going because they couldn't throw strikes. Cincinnati pitchers walked a season-high 10 batters. Three of them scored.

Vazquez has been solid since the Braves got him from the White Sox in a six-player deal last December. The right-hander has gone six innings in each of his four starts and allowed no more than three runs. Joey Votto and Alex Gonzalez had RBI singles off Vazquez, who struck out nine.

Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth, the first run allowed by Rafael Soriano this season. Left-hander Mike Gonzalez pitched a perfect ninth for his second save in three chances.

Jones went 0-for-5 on his 37th birthday. The third baseman had been a .500 career hitter with four homers on his birthdays.


The Braves placed OF Garret Anderson on the 15-day DL retroactive to Monday with a strained left thigh. Anderson had missed the last three games. ... C Brian McCann was a late scratch with blurriness in his left eye caused by a problem with his contact lenses, a problem that has bothered him the last few days. He expects to go on the DL and see a specialist. ... The Reds apologized because of a malfunction that left fans unable to buy tickets at some kiosks. Some of the 8,799 fans who bought tickets at the gates were late getting into the ballpark.

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